Since the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla. left 17 dead, several major retailers have imposed stricter rules on gun sales and dozens of companies have cut their ties with the member-benefits program of the National Rifle Association.
One of the groups in the forefront of making that happen is Drain the NRA, whose co-founder is a writer and comedian, a wife and mother, a quick wit and a serious thinker:
Meet Laura Mannino, of Highland Park.
Ms. Mannino, who moved to Los Angeles from New York in 2009, makes her living being funny. In 2016, the year she first felt jolted into gun-control activism, her half-hour comedy pilot Bomb,was a top contender in three screenplay competitions, including the Austin Film Festival competition. Another comedy pilot she co-wrote, Off the Grid, had its premier that year. Her growing list of writing credits included online television shows, sketches, monologues and an award-winning short film.
But 2016 was also the year that 49 people were killed and 58 wounded in the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
For Ms. Mannino, the shock of it had a sharp personal edge. The victims were young people, couples and a mother who was out dancing with her son. Ms. Mannino’s son was one-year old at the time. “When he was born,” she explained, “I began to see bad things that happened to someone else’s child as something that could happen to my child.” The connection was vicarious but profound. “I can’t let my kid grow up in a world like this,” she remembers thinking.
She joined a local chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that demands gun reforms from elected officials. Months later, following the 2016 presidential election, she joined a women’s group that met once a week to discuss resistance to the Trump agenda on a range of issues. When yet another mass shooting occurred in Las Vegas in October 2017, she and several women from that group formed Drain the NRA, with the aim of ending the gun lobby’s ability to block gun-control legislation.
It was a small group with a big idea – to urge boycotts of corporations that offer discounts and other benefits to the NRA and its members, on the ground that affiliating with the NRA supports the size and influence of the gun lobby. Central to that effort, Drain the NRA began developing a detailed spreadsheet of all of the NRA’s corporate ties.
The first target of Drain the NRA was True Car, a car buying service based in Santa Monica. On Dec.14, 2017, dozens of women turned out to picket True Car, saying in part that its affiliation with the NRA was counter to the progressive values of Santa Monica.
True Car ignored them.
Two months later, Parkland happened. Drain the NRA, which was still putting the finishing touches on its spreadsheet, rushed it onto their website. Major news media picked it up. Other boycott efforts also exploded onto the social media scene. Over the next month, many of America’s most recognized corporations severed their benefit programs with the NRA, including the major car rental companies, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Republic Bank, Visa prepaid/ credit cards – and True Car.
The spreadsheet was just a beginning. Watching the coverage of Parkland and the high school survivors who spoke out, Ms. Mannino saw that they were powerful because “they had no talking points,” she said. “They used their guts and instincts and anger.” This was the opposite of quiet vigils and comforting teddy bears. She and the others in Drain the NRA – still a core group of five women and about 50 people in a Google Group – decided to protest. Four days after the shooting, on Feb. 18, they joined with Moms Demand Action and other gun-control activists to hold an anti-gun violence protest in downtown L.A. that drew at least 500 demonstrators who chanted “Enough is Enough,” “Vote Them Out” and “Drain the NRA.” A month later, Drain the NRA marched with several other women’s groups in the “March For Our Lives,” protest downtown that drew more than 50,000 people.
Drain the NRA will hold a general interest meeting on Saturday, Apr. 14 to introduce the founding members, explain their goals, current projects and future plans, share ideas and invite participation. It will be held at the Silverlake Community Church, 2930 Hyperion Ave. from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel, and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times. Hendrickson is committed to local news reporting and to finding a way forward for local news outlets in today's challenging media markets.